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Safari Newsletter Dated March 21, 2017

Dear Vacations To Go Customer,

The first step in planning an African safari is to decide where to go. There are organized safaris in three distinct African regions, and each offers a different experience. Some itineraries concentrate on a single country while others combine two, three or more countries into a single trip. Here's a look at the three regions.

East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) has the largest concentrations of animals, world-famous Serengeti National Park and Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain. In Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey discovered 2 million-year-old bones and tools from what some believe were the earliest humans. My first safari was in Tanzania, during the Great Migration.

The world's entire population of mountain gorillas (fewer than 900) lives in a mountainous region split by Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. A few years ago, I was able to observe these magnificent animals up close in the Rwandan side of the Virunga Conservation Area.

Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia and Zambia) offers game viewing on foot and in boats (in addition to open-air vehicles), unique species of birds and amazing Victoria Falls. I visited Zambia and Botswana on safari several summers ago and was thrilled with the game viewing from dugout canoes in the Okavango Delta and from the backs of lumbering elephants along the Zambezi River.

South Africa (the country) is unique in that safaris are frequently combined with a cosmopolitan segment to form a very diverse vacation. Game reserves feature the continent's most deluxe safari lodges, and it's easy to add time in the beautiful city of Cape Town or the scenic Garden Route stretch of the southern coast. Click here for a complete list of possibilities.

Once you've chosen your destination, it's time to consider safari operators, which can be roughly classified as budget, first class or deluxe -- in ascending order of cost and quality. Factors in classifying a safari include quality and location of accommodations, the number of included activities, size of the group and the level of personalized service.

Budget safaris offer price-conscious travelers a way to explore the African continent without breaking the bank. Budget safaris may feature modest accommodations and are offered by G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.

First-class safaris stay at more comfortable, full-service hotels and lodges and have more inclusions than budget trips. They are operated by CroisiEurope, Gate 1, Globus, Monograms and Trafalgar.

Deluxe safaris are even more upscale and inclusive, and groups are smaller. You'll stay in the finest accommodations and enjoy gourmet dining and personal attention throughout. Deluxe safaris are offered by Abercrombie & Kent, Adventures by Disney, African Travel (the company I chose for my Southern Africa trip), Alexander+Roberts, AmaWaterways, Collette, Natural Habitat Adventures, SITA (the company I chose for my Uganda and Rwanda trip -- it also has itineraries categorized as first class), and Tauck (the company I chose for my Tanzania trip).

Once you've decided on your destination and safari operator, you must determine what documentation is required for each of the countries you'll be visiting. Passports valid for at least six months beyond the end of your trip are required for all safari destinations but South Africa, which requires that the passport be valid for at least 30 days after the date of departure.

Travelers should make sure that there are enough blank, unstamped pages in their passports for visas and immigration stamps for all countries that will be entered on the itinerary. The following guidelines are from the U.S. State Department: At least one blank page for Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda; at least two blank pages for Kenya, Zambia and South Africa; at least three blank pages for Botswana; and at least six blank pages for Namibia.

Next, it's essential to visit a doctor who specializes in travel medicine or the travel medicine department of a local hospital to learn about health issues in your destination. Certain immunizations are required, and others are highly recommended. It's best to make this visit well in advance of your trip, as some health threats require a series of inoculations over time, all prior to travel.

Now it's time to shop for safari essentials. Some items to consider are the right camera and lens for wildlife photography, binoculars and clothing suitable for safaris. Blue and black clothing attracts insects; earth colors of tan, green and brown are preferable. Clothing coated with Permethrin will discourage most flying and crawling insects, including malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Outdoors outfitters such as REI usually carry shirts and pants that are pretreated. You also can find Permethrin at these types of stores to coat the rest of the clothes you plan to take.

For my gorilla trek in the mountains of Rwanda, I tested my hiking boots to make sure I could wear them blister-free for long hours. I also treated the boots with extra water repellent. A small daypack is good for carrying camera equipment and water, and a light rain jacket may be in order for some safari destinations.

Finally, many African safaris involve one or more flights on small prop planes with strict luggage weight restrictions. I've been known to pack for a big trip in 15 minutes, but the fear of having to leave some of my freshly poisoned safari clothes beside a dirt runway somewhere caused me to do the unthinkable before my first safari -- "practice" packing. Something to consider as you make your final preparations for what is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.

Top 10 Africa vacations

1) Tanzania Deluxe Safari, 7 days with SITA Tours. Begins and ends in Arusha. Starting at $2,845. Departures from April 6 through December 28, 2017.

2) Botswana and Victoria Falls Adventure, 8 days with G Adventures. Begins in Windhoek and ends in Livingstone. Starting at $1,849. Departures from June 24, 2017 through December 29, 2018.

3) Classic South Africa, 8 days with African Travel. Begins and ends in Johannesburg. Starting at $2,895. Departures from April 19 through December 10, 2017.

4) Gorillas & Game Parks, 16 days with Intrepid Travel. Begins and ends in Nairobi. Starting at $3,030. Departures from May 6, 2017 through January 20, 2018.

5) Zambia and Malawi, 8 days with SITA Tours. Begins in Lusaka and ends in Lilongwe. Starting at $4,945. Daily departures from April 15 through December 23, 2017.

6) Wilds of Botswana & Victoria Falls, 11 days with Monograms. Begins and ends in Johannesburg. Save 10%. Starting at $5,099. Daily departures from April 9 through December 31, 2017.

7) Kenya Panorama, 10 days with African Travel. Begins and ends in Addis Ababa. Receive reduced airfare from select gateways. Starting at $5,475. Departures from April 4 through December 5, 2017.

8) South African Adventure (For Families), 13 days with Trafalgar. Begins in Johannesburg and ends in Cape Town. Starting at $5,725. Departs June 18, 2017.

9) Signature Uganda, 9 days with Abercrombie & Kent. Begins and ends in Entebbe. Starting at $7,495. Departures from April 5 through October 6, 2017.

10) South Africa: An Elegant Adventure (BBC Earth Journey), 12 days with Tauck. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg. Starting at $7,990. Departures from January 12 through November 16, 2018.

Customers in the US and Canada can call us toll-free at 800-291-3346. For a list of our other toll-free numbers worldwide, click here.

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Please e-mail me your comments, suggestions and questions at alanfox@africasafari.com and I will respond the same day.

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Alan Fox
Chairman & CEO
Vacations To Go

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